Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Interview Series: German Hornsound

Welcome to the first life after "horn ensemble from around worlds" era post! 

The first HOT's topic today is part of "Interview Series" where I would share some interviews that I made throughout the year. These interviews were, again, part of some of the courses I took last year. There were, of course, some requirement or theme but it didn't stop me from wanting to know a little more in the area that I would learn and would be good for other people to know as well! So far, I have 7 interviews in stock and I will slowly post them by the end of July!

Here we go. 

I would like to begin with the great German Hornsound

(L to R. Stephan Schottstädt, Timo SteiningerSebastian Schorr, and Christoph Eß) 
Why do I interest in them?
While I was doing some research online, a Facebook video of the ensemble’s interview in Hong Kong came up. I have learned of this ensemble probably last year or two years ago through, again, a Facebook video (see below). It was one of their creative performance (acting + performing with narrator). Since I am interested in finding different ways in giving performance, I decided to interview them. I was also quite confident that they would at least response to my message on either Facebook or e-mail as they are active on social media. They replied my message within one day to let me know that they are agreed to do the interview. As the ensemble is becoming more successful it would be interesting to learn about administrative and management aspects rather than rehearsal and performing aspects. 

Besides, don't you want to know any other horn quartets apart from the American Horn Quartet? 

Hence, my questions are based on above idea.

Here is a brief history of the ensemble.
The German Hornsound is a horn quartet base in Germany. The ensemble was founded in 2009 (according to their website but 2010 according to its member) by four international recognized German hornists who graduates from Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Stuttgart, studying under Prof. Christian Lampert. The ensemble have appeared in many music festivals in German speaking country and have recently made successful debut performances in Asia.
Apart performing original works or arrangements for horn quartet, the German Hornsound is famous for developing their own program. In 2013, the ensemble developed “Siegfried & Violeta“ a three-act opera fragment based on theme by Verdi and Wagner for four horns and speakers. They have commissioned and premiered a new work for four horns and orchestra by Oliver Tardy in the same year.
More information can be found from their website or Facebook page.

Interview Summary 
(You may choose to skip this summary for a full script of the interview which can be found below this summary)
The interview questions were answered by Christoph who is a member of the group as well as acting as a group manager. It is to learn that the group was formed not with an idea to have a professional group but rather to have fun making music together. After gave their first performances in 2011/2012 season, they became famous (partly due to their profiles and reputations, I believe) and started to have more engagement where they reach about 30 concerts a year. Their ensemble philosophy is a homogenous and warm French Horn sound combined with their own creative concept productions. Since they came from the same teacher, it is not too difficult for them to have a similar concept of sound to achieve the homogenous sound. Concepts, however, can be different. The ensemble take their friendship as a priority. When different opinions occur, they solve their differences by talking together. This diminish communication problems.
The ensemble registered as a company and became official in 2013 when they reached 20 concert a year. Apart from Crownfunding their first recording in 2012, German Hornsound’s budget comes from benefits of their merchandises, productions, and other investments. This proves how succesful they are. Part of their success comes from their creativity and originality in their programming. Not only playing standard repertoire or arrangement for horn quartets, they create a theme performance around different arrangements such as Siengfried und Violetta: Opera fragment based on arrangement from music of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi or program for children - “Wie die Musik um ein Haar flöten ging” and “Auf die Hörner, fertig, los!” where we play the music and act the roles. Apart from performing in concert halls, German Hornsound also oftenly perform in school during music lessons. Not only the students would be excited about the instrument, it is a chance to meet the future generation and to obtain their interest in classical music so they can continue support classical music. The group think that, this should be a duty.
Another important aspect is to be active in social media in order to maintain an interesting image to audience as well as concert promoters, and agencies. It can be short video clips, pictures, or stories. Personally, I think they have used it effectively. The advantage of having full-time orchestra jobs provide them opportunity to take more risks in experimenting new things. Since their are fewer horn quartets out there especially after American Horn Quartet has retired, they wish to bring French Horn music to the audiences and to show how wonderful the instrument can be.

Their last word of advice is “Every musician is different. You have to find your own way of playing an instrument and performing concerts. You have to do this with self-confidence, but never stop learning from other great musicians.“

I would like to sincerely thanks Christoph  and the German Hornsound for their time and for sharing their experiences. And to my dear reader, I would love to hear your thought!

See you next post!


Full interview transcript with German Hornsound

1. How was the ensemble started? What was the aim? What is your ensemble philosophy?
The ensemble was founded by four german graduates of the French Horn Class of Prof. Christian Lampert at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart in 2010. Actually, the original idea was to spend more time together, to have fun and make music.  After we finished our studies, we drifted apart in four different cities; Berlin, Bamberg, Hannover and Reutlingen and didn’t see each other very often. So we organized a few concerts in 2011/2012. We never expected to go this far of having about 30 concerts a year. Our ensemble philosophy is a homogenous and warm French horn sound combined our own creative concept productions.

2. Were there any official process of setting up an ensemble? If so, what were they? Did you have to register it as an organization? Is it easier to set up a professional ensemble in Germany? Who runs the ensemble?
The ensemble became official in 2013 when we reached the level of  more than 20 concerts a year.  We had to register as a Company. All four of us are equal partners in the company.

3. How are you being funded or supported? Is the ensemble being funded per year? Do you need to find your own sponsorships or patrons?
We just took a chance on Crowdfunding for our first recording in 2012. Since then ,the ensemble hasn't need any patrons or sponsorships and we take the expenses and investments for our productions, merchandising, tours e.g. out of our own incomes.

4. Why should there be another professional horn quartet? What make a successful ensemble?
That is a good question. In our opinion, there are not many Horn quartets, which perform as frequently as we do. Most of the existing quartets are members of orchestral horn sections which perform only a few concerts per year.
Our aim is to create original programs and tour through Germany and Overseas. Since the American Horn Quartet has retired, there are fewer quartets.
You can be successful with this special Instrumentation, when you take a chance at offering interesting programs to the festival and concert series promoters.

5. What is your thought process in creating a performance program? How do you manage your relationship with different types of audience? (I was really impressed by watching your "Wie die Musik um ein Haar flöten ging" Video!)

We offer quite a lot of different programs. On the one hand there are soloistic pieces for four horns and Orchestra. We often played Schumann concert piece and the new piece written for us in 2013 by Tragve Madsen. Then we have our concept programs (sometimes with singers, with actors, with authors).
We have two different education programs for children (“Wie die Musik um ein Haar flöten ging” and “Auf die Hörner, fertig, los!”) where we play the music and act the roles. And last but not least, we have programs just for horn quartet.
But the creation process for all our programs is begun by thinking about which music is arrangeable for our instruments.  Then we create the program around the arrangements. Each of us takes part in the process of making the arrangements, the stories, art work and marketing.

6. What was your latest experience in Asia like? Are there any differences between audience there and in Europe? What else did you learn?
Our debut in Asia two weeks ago in Hongkong and Taipei was absolutely amazing. We had three fantastic concerts. The audience was very friendly and polite. Almost all of them wanted to have pictures with us, and they bought our CDs and merchandising products with our autograms. We met wonderful people and learned that the French Horn society all over the World has a strong sense of togetherness.

7. As a musician, are there any benefits from involving with or taking part in different community?  If so, what do you think the ensemble role is in the community?
We are very often playing in schools during the Music lessons. The young pupil are very excited about the French Horn, about Classical Music in general, about being a professional Musician. And also for us there is a big benefit to meet the future generation directly which we absolutely need tob e interested in classical music, to go into the concerts. For any ensemble this should be a duty!

8. As social media has become part of today’s life; how important it is to be active online? Would this model change in the future?
That is something we also learned last year, especially with our contacts  in Asia. Being active online and in social media is very important. You should keep your followers always up to date with little videos, pictures, and stories. But it is also important to keep concert promoters and agencies up to date and maintain an interesting image.

9. What are the problems that the ensemble has encountered so far and how do you solve them?
For us, the friendship between the four of us is a priority. That is our basis and is still a constant factor. So, we don't have communication problems. Of course we have different opinions in some things but we always solve our differencses with direct communication.
Sometimes we have, of course, musical decisions to make. There are different ways of playing, of articulating, and of phrasing. But we always reach a solution and solve these problems by talking together.

10. What is the ensemble goal for the next 20 – 30 years?
Of course we want to maintain it as it is. We have one big advantage compared to string quartets or other famous chamber music ensembles and that is ,we have our orchestra jobs and can play quartet just for fun on the side. So sometimes we take more risks in investmenting in some crazy things for our productions. Our experience has shown that effort (time, money, ideas) is always worth it. We want to bring French Horn Music to the audiences and show how wonderful our instrument can be!

11. Any word of advices for young professional musicians who are about to go to into a ‘real’ world?
Every musician is different. You have to find your own way of playing an instrument and performing concerts. You have to do this with self-confidence, but never stop learning from other great musicians.

P.S. I was told that I forgot to give an answer to the trivia I wrote from Feb 2, 2017 post. Here we go!

The highest note from orchestral literature is the E above high C which can be found in R. Strauss' Sinfonia Domestica, Op. 53 and the lowest note is the pedal E that can be found in D. Shostakovich Symphony no. 5! (however, I have a feeling that my answers might not be up to dated any more. So, I don't mind if I am wrong so that I can learn something new!)

May the horn sound be with you!

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